GUIYANG, March 28- Geoffrey Korir and Alfred Ngeno settled for the lesser medals when Ethiopia’s Yasin Haji denied Kenya the gold with a devastating late turn of speed as the junior men 8km race unfolded at the Guiyang World Cross on Saturday morning.
Haji stalked Korir and Ngeno as well as fourth finisher Dominic Kiptarus who led at the bell in a Kenyan 1-2-3 before he disengaged himself from the leader to hold on to the crown won by compatriot Hagos Gebrehiwet in Poland two years ago.
It was a painful second successive loss for the Kenyans in the race for individual honours here in the cold, cloudy and wet morning in Guiyang as Haji broke away to complete the hard course in 23:42.
“The course was hilly just like home but the guy never took up front running and at the last corner, I just saw him go past, he used the Kenyans (as rabbits). We shall return home to figure out how we lost, they came ready for us this team and we need to find out how to stop them.
“I was not sure of the win as long as he was around. I will return home to plot my next move,” Korir who bagged the second medal five second in arrears said at the finish.
“It was very tough in the last 500m, I struggled to keep up. It was too hilly and cold and that made us struggle. I’m delighted for the bronze medal and next time, I will aim for gold,” Ngeno who rounded the podium in 23:54 told.
“I can’t tell of the joy, It’s incredible for me and my country,” the winner, drapped in their flag said through a translator.
– Individual strength-
Unlike the preceding women’s 6km race, the Kenyan sextet in the junior 8km showdown initially stuck together as a team with Kiptarus taking early charge before Ngeno and Korir took their turn to push the pace in the opening half of the race with the eventual champion in close attendance in the box.
Naturalised Kenyan, Evans Rutto Chematot of Bahrain who was fifth (24:03), Uganda’s Joshua Kipkurui and the rest of the Ethiopians followed suit before Korir stepped up the pace in the closing half of the race to leave four Kenyans and Haji poised for the medals.
As Kiptarus fell further back after the bell, it was Korir who had assumed the lead, Ngeno and Haji for the top medal and with the last straight in sight, the Ethiopian shifted through the high gears to race clear for victory.
With it, Ethiopia made it two out of two in the individual honours after Letesenbet Gidey took the honours in the junior women 6km.
Kenya won the team gold to level the score with Ethiopia who ran away with the junior 6km women title.
-Mutwiri Mutuota is reporting from Guiyang